TWHS: Semarang Old Town

Heading north from Borobudur it’s just a couple hours to the north side of Java and the next tentative World Heritage Site on this leg of our Indonesia travels:

Semarang Old Town

Gereja Blenduk


Semarang is a colonial city par exellence.  Established in 17th century, Kota Lama Semarang is a best preserved colonial city with remarkable testimony of important historical phases of human civilization – in economic, political and social – in the South East Asia and the World. Although it is today a sprawling metropolis of 1.2 million inhabitants, it’s old centre retains a group of buildings  with various architectural styles coming from medieval, baroque and modern style.  It’s unique urban landscape shows a development of a fortified city which is growing in to an international and cosmopolitan port city in it’s age.  There fore it is worth to preserve Kota Lama Semarang, especilly from today’s thread: extensive flooding and land subsidence…

The church in the picture above is the Gereja Blenduk, which Wonderful Indonesia tells us is “The most renowned landmark … a copper domed Dutch church dating from 1753”.

If that strikes you as somewhat of an anticlimax after having seen Borobudur that morning…

… well yeah it is. Especially since you’re not allowed inside.

Still, it’s definitely an interesting city to walk around in, and the pieces of the old town still standing isn’t all that big: one particularly interesting place is the Marabunta Building — no, we have no idea what’s with the ants —

Marabunta Building

which is a turn of the century dance hall that reputedly was a favored stage of the renowned spy Mata Hari, probably the most famed resident of the Dutch East Indies, and possessed of rather striking stained glass windows:

Marabunta Stained Glass

but most of the old quarter looks more like this.

Marabunta Back Streets

However, this regrettably tumbledown state of much of the heritage does have one fascinating side effect: The souvenir stalls scattered around are full of authentic colonial Dutch furniture and fixtures that have been salvaged from them. Want all your doorknobs, window frames, etc. to be pieces of genuine colonial history? Well, this is the place to go shopping and buy those artifacts at less than scrap metal prices!

We do have a dining recommendation, conveniently located directly across from the Gereja Blenduk:

Sate & Gule Kambing 29

If goat meat, goat bones, and goat guts are outside your regular comfort zone, this is just the place to start reconsidering that. We had some marrow stew and liver satay along with more conventional cuts, and were pleasantly shocked at just how delicious it was!

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  1. […] on from Semarang back south towards Solo (Surakarta), you pass through fairly standard looking central Java […]

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